Year after year, teachers watch their once fully-stocked classroom library dwindle to the few less desirable books on the shelf. You know, the ones that eventually go to the thrift store or get pages torn out for cool projects like “found poetry.” How sad is that? Hundreds of dollars worth of good classroom libraries get thrown away simply because there is no good classroom library organization.
Did you know that several free applications can be used in the classroom for free! Many of these apps can be downloaded to your phone or to a classroom iPad to check out and return books, just as you would in a library setting. This means there is an easier way to keep track of books without writing down a student’s name and then remembering where the paper is to figure out who has the book in the first place.
Because the classroom library can be the most valuable asset within your classroom, we have put together a compiled list of the best applications to use to ensure your library stays intact.
5 Ways to Organize a Classroom Library
Before we get started trying to find any application to use, it’s important to figure out how you want to organize your classroom library in the first place.
Do you want to organize the library by genre? Maybe you want your library organization to focus around a specific author or possibly, going traditionally in organizing by the author’s last name. There is even the pretty option of putting books in bins.
Here are some great ideas to help you along the way:
1. Organize Your Books with Book Bins
First and foremost, whatever classroom library organization method you choose, make sure that you have the spines out. This way, students can always see the title of the book and the author’s name. A lot of times, students will recommend books to their friends.
Word of mouth with a good book travels very fast, so students need to find with their friends quickly were telling them about.
Books in book bins are aesthetically pleasing. You can color-code and label them. For example, all of your dystopian fiction novels could be in a red van versus your autobiographical books in a blue bin. This is a great way for students to find the type of book they are looking for easily.
These small book bins are perfect for thin books that can not stand on their own. Middle-sized plastic book bins are perfect for organizing and storing your small chapter books. If you turn the second style of book bins 90 degrees, you will fit larger hardcover books.
2. Find Books By Genre or Author
If you want your students to find books according to the genre and not use bins, make sure you have library dividers on your shelves to indicate when one genre begins and another ends. For example, have your nonfiction books listed first and then separate them and your fiction books. It’s best if your separators are of different colors and have labels.
As mentioned before, make sure that all of your books are spine out so that kids can always see who the author is and what the title is. With separators, you can organize these books by picture book or action-adventure, and students will easily find what they are looking for.
Separating your books by the author’s last name is a classic way of organizing your classroom library. I would still suggest that you don’t go only by last name alone but separate by genre and then by the author’s last name.
Often students can’t remember who wrote the book they are looking for, but they can remember the type of book they are looking for. This is where separating by genre and having the author’s last name in alphabetical order comes in handy.
3. Separate Books By Reading Level
While separating books by reading level in an upper-level classroom may not be ideal (as students are more self-conscious of the types of books they are reading), this would be better in kindergarten, the first day of school books through sixth-grade classrooms.
Organizing the books by reading level would require the same organizational methods listed above; separators or book bins—separate 4th-grade reading books from first-grade reading books.
Separating by the text’s difficulty can come in handy in lower grade levels as some students may go into kindergarten reading while others are still recognizing letters. In this particular case, you can differentiate your instruction easily by giving more advanced students a more challenging book to read while at the same time helping those to need an easier text.
While this method is used in upper-grade levels, many older students are more self-conscious and are less likely to choose a lower-grade level text if it’s advertised on the bookshelf.
4. Have a Book Hospital
Every single organized classroom library needs a hospital for books. Make sure your students know that there is no harm, no foul want to book falls apart, and that there is a safe place to put those books so that they can be replaced or fixed.
Often, students feel like they get in trouble for the book breaking if the binding comes loose. Have a specific area of your classroom for your hospital for books.
5. Set Class Library Rules
When you organize your classroom library, you need to make sure that there is a set of rules ready for students checking books out, putting the books back, returning promptly, getting rid of books, and what to do with the books where they are damaged. These different protocols
What Is the Meaning of Classroom Organization?
As a teacher, this is SUCH a loaded question. There are so many different aspects of classroom organization that play into the actual meaning of it.
Classroom organization and structure are entirely based on how the teacher wants to conduct their class and the protocols and procedures.
An organized library, library labels, book labels, and rules are all part of a teacher’s organizational method. This includes having your room and desks organized, including where you have the bookshelf in the classroom.
Apps to Keep Track of Books in a Classroom Library
There are so many different free apps to keep track of your classroom library books. Most of these apps require a little work from you (the teacher) on the front end, but once you get this established, there can be an easy accountability system for the classroom when it comes to borrowing. Even better, you will save money on lost books by keeping track of the ones you have.
This app will account for every book in your classroom library. Book Retrieve has a 30-day free trial and then has an annual fee of $39. If you are willing to part with about $3 a month, this isn’t a bad deal at all, considering all of the different things this program does.
Book Retriever finds all its books to catalog through the ISBN (barcode) number on each book’s back. Create labels for your books that include the book goes, the barcode for checking out, and even a copy of the book. With a scanning feature, you won’t even need to type in all of those numbers on each of your library books.
Further, this application features bin label printing, managing students, and managing borrowed and returned books. Keeping track of books in a series, picture books, chapter books has never been easier.
I learned of this particular application a few years ago when I went to organize my classroom library.
I enjoyed the Book Source app because it was free of cost, and it could be used from my smartphone and classroom tablet. Much of what my students loved reading were chapter books in a series, so I would often have the same series doubled.
With the Book Source app, you can scan each book’s barcode in your classroom library from your phone to register each book.
Create your student registry within the app, and when students check out a book, a return date will be generated for them automatically. Your dashboard quickly tells you how many are out, on the shelves, and overdue.
If you want to catalog your library and track yourself, the Libib app may be a good option. This app’s free version allows for cataloging up to 5,000 books and connecting with other Libip users.
Management of students and checking out books is not an option on this app unless you want to pay a fee monthly for all of the benefits.
Book Buddy is an application that is specific to Apple and has a lot of great features. This app is free but has a 50 book limit. So if you have a small classroom library and an Apple device, this is a good option.
Organize your library by using the scanning feature on the barcode to register all of your books. This app also allows you to create a list of students to manage who has books out and who doesn’t. Further, you can personalize and categorize novels in a series, picture books, and various genres.
How Many Books Are in a Classroom Library?
There is no set amount of books that constitute a classroom library. However, according to a Scholastic report, experts claim that “…a classroom library should have at least 20 books per student, so a typical class of 28 students would have a classroom library of close to 600 books.”
While having 600 books in a classroom library may not be possible, try to have various books to suit the different interests presented in your classroom for kids to read.
How to Fund Your Classroom Library
Funding your classroom library may truly be the most challenging thing to do out of this entire article. So you think.
Did you know there are professional development programs that allow teachers a library budget for going through their program? Or what about grant sites such as DonorsChoose? Maybe your school has an actual stipend for libraries in the classroom, and you didn’t know it. It never hurts to ask!
I built my classroom library with the help of a professional development grant money and money for classroom libraries that I didn’t even know my school had until I asked! Sometimes, the school library has to spend allocated funds before they expire and would be willing to purchase books for your classroom. Again, it never hurts to ask.
When it comes to organization, some teachers are rock stars at it, and to some, it is like being on an island and having no clue where to go with it. Teachers need logical and easy-to-use methods to help organize their spaces and valuable materials, like their books. A classroom library will always be one of the most important assets within a school.
Establishing procedures and having systems in place, such as putting books back on shelves, operating fiction from nonfiction, putting books in bins, and having a known place for every book, will help with the library’s thinning. We hope that these apps and tips listed will give you a starting place for your classroom library organization.